New York State of Mind

Last week I was in New York. I kicked my trip off with a meeting at the Fashion Institute of Technology; then a leisurely dinner with an old friend who was in my team, oh I don’t know how many moons ago. Then I went out to New Jersey to run a Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders workshop with the IABC NJ chapter.

In a couple of hours, I will board a Cathay Pacific flight (Isobel insists!) to Hong Kong where will be putting a few new ideas to the test in that important market. So I’m sitting here reflecting on meetings with old friends and new. Is there such a thing as a “New York state of mind?”. Or was Billy Joel completely wrong?

Of course there is the archetype of the typical New Yorker, but let us of focus on the “new”. Is there a mindset or an approach to life that can make a difference in your career? Can you be purposeful? I think the answer is ‘yes’. Let me give you two examples, without giving too much away.

Exhibit one: my ex-team member, Kelly Anson. Moved to NY after a failed marriage and wanted to rebuild her life. She took positive steps to fix a few things, and made it happen. Now she lives in a great house, with a great job, and a great family. She’s got it all! But only because she took some active steps to make changes. Yes, luck is important – or, for Isobel, cleromancy – but you do make your own. And she did in spades.

Exhibit two: a completely new friend, Casper Toms. He came to my workshop at the Vanderbilt residence (more on that later). As you know, our workshops are generally designed for people in comms who want to advance their career. Casper works at a wealth management company, having studied Economics and Sustainability in Europe. So why did he come to my workshop? He wanted to expand his horizons, play outside his comfort zone and meet new people.

This got me thinking. There was a lot of excitement for the IABC world conference in Vancouver last week. A lot of communicators I know where there. I couldn’t go, alas. But I couldn’t help but wonder, are comms professionals over excited about playing in their own professional sandbox? Or should we be more like Caspar and attend things outside our natural home … to learn more about business. Maybe we all need to be a ‘bit more Caspar’ and have a different state of mind when it comes to networking and professional development. After all, if a finance person can come to a comms event, why not the other way around? Dare to be new, I say.

Oh, I promised something about the Vanderbilts. We did our workshop in one of the rooms of their old house: Florham. About an hour west of NYC. An echo of a golden era – I was reminded of West Egg but of course it is really modelled on Hampton Court in London.  Now of course, the house is part of a University and is focused on creating intellectual wealth, not financial. And I bet you didn’t know this: there’s good evidence that Cornelius Vanderbilt started his life as a technical expert (ferry captain in New York) before becoming strategic adviser (to his business partner in the 1810s) and then … famously … business leader.

That, to me, is the true New York state of mind!

The World Cup is over, the career lessons are here to stay.

As promised, here’s part 2 of the career archetypes we found watching the FIFA Men’s World Cup. In part 1, we focused on the archetypes the national teams helped us identify. Where you a Germany, a England or a Mexico?

In this edition, we will look at some of the personalities we met throughout the tournament and extract some career lessons from their participation. So, without further ado here are the five career lessons we learned watching the World Cup:

Be a cry baby, at your peril by Neymar

You can be a high performer, even an overachiever, but that is not enough to secure your place among the stars. Your reputation is also built on your behaviour and how you react to failure is key. Sure, if something doesn’t go the way you planned go ahead and throw a tantrum. Even roll in the grass for a bit, just don’t be surprised when the world looks elsewhere for a leader.
See: How Neymar’s diving stole the world cup

Dress the part, be the part by Gareth Southgate

The England coach did not only prove that you can take a young inexperienced squad and make them winners, you can also build a personal brand with consistency and class. The waistcoat was a masterstroke. Even John Cleese called him the ultimate example of a gentleman! So, take the time to think about your personal style and how it goes or clashes with your personal brand. See: Football, not rugby, is now the gentleman’s game

Props show your power by Vladimir Putin

In Moscow when it rains it pours and Vlad made sure he was the first one with an umbrella. While his peers (Macron and Grabar-Kitarovic) got soaked, Putin managed to show them up by simply managing to stay dry. So make sure your team likes you enough to keep you dry. See: Vladimir Putin gets umbrella as he hands out World Cup medals… while world leaders next to him get soaked

Go the extra mile, at the right moment by Yuri Cortez

Yuri who? You probably don’t know his name but if you watched the Croatia-England semi-final you saw him get run over by a celebratory Croatian team after the Mario Mandžukić’s goal. At a time when he could understandably have shielded his body and camera, the experienced photojournalist got to work. The lesson: rise to the challenge at the right time and you will make your mark.
See: Photographer proves a good shot after getting squashed by Croatia players

Act like a leader, become a leader by Didier Deschamps

Didier’s transformation from the ‘water-carrier’ as Eric Cantona called him to the leader of the world champions is an inspiration to all aspiring career people. He was an excellent player, a defender with leadership qualities who knew how to support the team stars. Fast forward twenty years and you can see a textbook example of how to move from being part of a high-performing team (France 1998) to leading a high-performing team (2018). His success story is full of talent and grit and an inspiration to all career people.
See: Why was Didier Deschamps nicknamed ‘The Water-carrier’ and when did he win the World Cup as France captain?

What are your takeaways from the month-long football world cup? These lessons combine fun and learning so they are very much archetypical in nature. However, if you object to any of our characterizations we welcome your feedback and even the chance for some rhetorical footie – here or on Twitter where @CarmenSpinoza11 is always up for a challenging match.

From football goals to career goals: lessons from the World Cup

When we developed Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders, one of our key premises was that people learn best when they have fun. So we invented the game starring Carmen Spinoza and all her colleagues as archetypes of senior business leaders. It’s been two years and have now run simulations helping professionals explore key issues in journey as strategic advisers.

But what if you took things from the other perspective and started with a game and then translated it back into business?

We give you the World Cup Strategic Adviser archetypes, part 1. Part 1 because this is written half-way through the World Cup. Part 2 will come near the end when we know which country makes it to the top of the football ladder, avoiding the snakes along the way.

The teams in the World Cup all embody a different corporate archetype. The question is: which team are you most like in your career?

Germany. You have already ‘won’ the World Cup Strategic Adviser game. In fact you are at the top of your career and are the incumbent. Maybe you have stopped being hungry. Maybe a long track record of success makes you feel that victory is routine. But it turns out that others are hungrier for your position and the ‘corporate snakes’ are after you. Your complacency is your downfall. Others want your job more and if you snooze you lose.

Mexico. You are a solid all-round corporate player who – when you are at your best – can best any champion (Germany). You have been routinely underestimated, so when you prepare and shine, you amaze the audience. You have flair, you have talent, you have loads of supporters. And then, you stumble. When you lose your focus, you can make basic mistakes and fall apart more quickly than a hastily constructed IKEA bookshelf (Sweden). Sometimes you are lucky, and you find unlikely allies (Korea).

Iceland. Maybe you suddenly find yourself at the top table on the back of some unlikely successes in previous jobs (tournaments). You are popular and endearing. People like you. On occasion you can hold your own (Argentina). But let’s be honest: the step up to the C-suite is more of a challenge that you realised.  Your big success in your previous job (England, European Championship) got you this one but unfortunately you are a small fish in a big pond and it shows. Turns out the Peter Principle applies to football as well.

England. Cruise to victory when the challenge is easy. You can score a big win in a simple situation (Panama) and then your fans get carried away thinking you are going to win it all. When faced with a tough test (Belgium) you make the strategic choice to sacrifice a short-term gain in order to improve your chances later by resting your best players. This is the business equivalent of keeping your best skills for the key opportunities. Of course only time will tell if this is successful or not so watch out for part 2 of the blog.

Japan. Perhaps unexpectedly you find yourself in a leadership role – a candidate for the next promotion. Some luck has helped you on your way (Colombia). You know what you need to do in your career: you have calculated your chances of progression and plot a course which will get you what you need, even if it isn’t popular (Poland). You play by the letter of the law, rather than its spirit. Will this help in the long term? Again stay tuned for part 2.

Russia. You have an opportunity. A time to shine. A chance to show the world what you can do. And, boy, do you take it. You raise your game to the right level just when you need to; and prove everybody wrong. Sure, a bit of luck came your way (Saudi Arabia, Egypt) but you had the pride and motivation to take advantage of the opportunity. Sterner tests will come (Spain) but so far you can say ‘job well done’. Give yourself a pat on the back and know that you have already done more than what people expected of you.

That concludes part 1 of our World Cup Strategic Adviser Review. Stay tuned for part 2 at the end of the tournament. We’ll probably review some different teams, or maybe our assessment will change as they move up the career ladder (win a game) or get fired (knocked-out).

In the meantime, we welcome debate and comment: which team do you think you are most like? @CarmenSpinoza11 is going to be watching the knockout phase so look out for her commentary.